Choosing which version of The Curse of Fenric to show to Sue was trickier than I thought. The results of our poll was split right down the middle, with 51% of you saying we should stick with the broadcast version, while 49% of you wanted us to watch the Special Edition. You know, the one that makes sense. In the end, I let Sue decide.
Sue: Which one is the shortest?
Me: The broadcast version.
Sue: That one.
Sue: Ah, The Curse of Fenric – a proper Doctor Who title for a change. Have we had Ian Briggs before?
Me: Yes, he wrote Dragonfire.
Sue: Oh ****.
Sue: I used to work in Fenwicks. Actually, I don’t know why I said that.
The Curse of Fenric begins with something lurking beneath the waves.
Sue: That monster is a bit wooden.
Me: Are you taking the piss?
Sue: I’ve seen better special effects. Is this a sequel to the one with the Loch Ness Monster?
I don’t think she’s joking, but I can’t be sure any more.
Sue: Is this Mark Ayres? I’m sure I’ve heard you listening to this music before. You are such a geek.
The TARDIS materialises in Northumbria during the Second World War.
Sue: Ooh, I like the Doctor’s new duffel coat. I’ve got a coat just like that, except mine’s bright orange.
The Doctor and Ace are surrounded by armed soldiers, but the troops are easily bamboozled.
Sue: What a bunch of morons. Is this a UNIT training camp?
Meanwhile, the Russian task force decide to make things easier for the viewers at home.
Sorin: From now on, everything in English.
Sue: Thank God for that. The subtitles looked like Teletext.
The Doctor and Ace introduce themselves to Dr Judson (who reminds Sue of Mark Heap from Friday Night Dinner for some inexplicable reason). The Doctor forges his credentials with some help from a nearby typewriter.
Sue: What a faff on. No wonder he invents psychic paper. So is this supposed to be Bletchley Park?
Me: It’s very similar.
Sue: Good. I like the historicals.
A Russian soldier is attacked by something on the beach.
Sue: Where is his ****ing gun?
Not far away, outside St. Jude’s church.
Sue: Oh it’s him… Hang on a minute… What the hell is he doing in Doctor Who?
Once she gets over the initial shock, and she realises that Nicholas Parsons can act, Sue calms down a bit.
Sue: Nicolas Parsons has the look of a silver-haired Patrick McGoohan.
That’s not something you hear every day.
Meanwhile, in Commander Millington’s Nazi hideaway.
Sue: Millington doesn’t sound like a very German name to me. And why is he wearing a British Naval uniform? Everything is a bit ****ed up here.
The Doctor and Ace find Judson in a crypt, where he’s attempting to decipher some ancient carvings.
Sue: It’s very nicely lit. Is this in a studio?
Me: No, it’s all on location.
Sue: I thought so. This is so much more believable. Why didn’t they make them all like this? It’s irritating.
When the Doctor and Ace examine the gravestones in the cemetery, Sue spots a clue.
Sue: Millington’s name is on that gravestone. I bet that’s significant.
You know, I’d never noticed that before. I feel like a right plonker.
Meanwhile, two evacuees – Jean and Phyllis – aren’t very happy when Miss Hardaker won’t let them go swimming.
Miss Hardaker: Do you know why it’s called Maidens’ Point? Because when you stand on those cliffs, you can hear the terrible lost cries of girls who went to that place with evil in their hearts.
Sue: You can hear them screaming out their orgasms for miles around. It’s enough to put you off your dinner.
The Doctor and Reverend Wainwright discuss the Viking inscriptions.
Sue: He’s surprisingly good, actually. I didn’t know he could act. I thought he just did game shows. He’s really good.
Beneath the waves, we watch Phyllis and Jean swim.
Sue: I bet Mark had to resist the urge to rip off the Jaws theme, here.
Finally, the The Curse of Fenric begins to work its magic, and Sue shuts up for a bit so she can chew her nails.
Sue: It’s really good, this.
Phyllis and Jean find a strange object on the beach.
Jean: Ooo, it feels all funny and tingly.
Sue: One of the harlots left their vibrator behind. The place is littered with them.
A Russian solider is relieved when he isn’t forced to shoot Phyllis and Jean in the face.
Sue: Awww. I bet this turns into Letter to Brezhnev. Just you wait and see.
The Doctor and Ace encounter Kathleen Dudman and her baby, Audrey.
Sue: That’s Ace’s mum.
Me: Don’t be ridiculous.
Sue: It’s like Back to the Future, but with Nazis.
Me: Well, there are no Nazis in this, but yeah.
The episode ends when the Russians capture the Doctor and Ace on the beach.
Sue: I’m sorry, I’m not saying very much, but I’m enjoying this too much. That cliffhanger was a bit shit, though.
Sue: Isn’t it weird how you can’t hear the soldiers creeping up on them until they are less than a foot away? How did they sneak up on Ace and the Doctor on all that shingle?
Meanwhile, beneath the water, a corpse opens his eyes.
Sue: Scary Matthew Broderick zombie. You know, that would have been a much better cliffhanger.
Me: This is why people wanted us to watch the Special Edition instead. The broadcast version was hacked to bits and scenes had to be rearranged to fit the episode’s running time. If I’m not mistaken, I think the original intention was to end Part One with the corpse opening its eyes.
Sue: Is it too late to switch to the Special Edition?
Mr Judson and Mrs Crane are bickering in the crypt.
Sue: These two are hilarious. I could watch them all day.
Meanwhile, Phyllis and Jean are flirting with the British Army.
Sue: They really are a pair of slappers. I feel sorry for the old lady, now.
But then Sue picks up on a problem.
Sue: This story is moving too fast. Some of the scenes are over in a flash. Even the new series doesn’t move as fast as this does.
Me: Is it as fast as the second-hand on a watch?
Sue: What are you banging on about now?
Me: Nothing. But we should have watched the Special Edition.
Sue: Just put it on. I won’t tell anyone.
Me: Stop it.
In the church, Reverend Wainwright is preaching to himself.
Wainwright: When I became a man, I put away childish things. Now abideth faith, hope, love. These three. And the greatest of these is.
Sue: If you know the answer, you win this week’s star prize.
The Doctor and Ace are introduced to Millington’s fountain of death.
Sue: He’s mining swarfega. He’s like the Brigadier’s older, nastier brother, isn’t he?
Millington wants the Russians steal the Ultima code-breaking machine so they can detonate a bomb in the Kremlin when it translates a particular word.
The Doctor: And the word is?
Millington: What else could it be, Doctor? Love.
Sue: I tell you what – it’s bloody good, this.
Jean and Phyllis go swimming at Maidens’ Point. Fully clothed.
Phyllis: So what? Who cares? It’s warm in the water.
Sue: I bet it ****ing isn’t. If it was, you’d take your ****ing clothes off.
A mist rolls in.
Sue: This reminds me of The Mist.
Me: The Fog.
Sue: Yes, that one.
Commander Millington wants all the chess sets on the base destroyed.
Sue: There have been a lot of references to chess in Doctor Who recently. What’s that all about?
Kathleen asks the Doctor if he has a family of his own.
The Doctor: I don’t know.
Kathleen: Oh, I’m sorry. It’s the war, isn’t it?
Sue: Bloody Time War.
Jean and Phyllis have been transformed into vampiric creatures. They entice a Russian solider into the water.
Jean: Come on. Come play with us.
Sue: This is a bit full on. This is not for kids. The monsters are bad enough but they’re also ramming sexual innuendoes down our throats.
Reverend Wainwright is confronted by Phyllis and Jean. They prod at his faith and it turns out that he stopped believing in God when the British started dropping bombs on the enemy.
Phyllis: British bombs killing German children.
Sue: This is very heavy. I have to say, the script is very good. And Nicholas Parsons can come back any time he likes.
Suddenly, strange creatures emerge from the sea.
Sue: It’s definitely turned into The Fog, now. This has to be the cliffhanger. And… cut.
But no, the episode ends on yet another close-up of Sylvester McCoy’s slightly perturbed face.
Sue: What a stupid place to end it.
Me: I knew we should have watched the Special Edition.
Millington wants all radios in the camp destroyed, and a young private carries out his order. The idiot.
Sue: Poor Prince William. He’ll regret that.
Wainwright warns the Doctor about the “local” legends surrounding his church.
Wainwright: In the story of Dracula, this is where he came ashore.
Sue: Dracula came ashore at Whitby, mate. This looks nothing like Whitby. He’s having a laugh.
Me: Our very first date was in Whitby, practically 20 years ago to the day. Do you remember?
Sue: Yes, I do. I still have the bite marks.
The Haemovores converge on the Russian troops.
Sue: Is this a magic beach which allows you to sneak up on people without them hearing you? Cos that’s the only explanation I can think of. Also, they can’t be vampires because this is broad daylight. They’re sea monsters.
And then Ace drops a bombshell:
Ace: I used to think I’ll never get married, but now I’m not so sure.
Sue: Eh? Where the hell did that come from? I’m telling you now, love, the Doctor isn’t interested in you like that.
The soldiers take on the advancing Haemovores.
Sue: Actually, they’re more like zombies than vampires. Just shoot them in the sodding head.
With St. Jude’s under attack (“It’s a shame that the monsters’ arms are so rubbery.”), Ace heads for the top of the church, which she then descends with the help of a ladder she’s been carrying around with her the whole time.
Sue: That’s handy.
Me: She did say that she wanted to go rock climbing.
Sue: Who goes rock climbing with a ****ing ladder?
Speaking of ladders…
Sue: Oh, I just saw Ace’s suspenders.
Me: I’ve never noticed that before.
Sue: Of course you haven’t.
Ace grapples with a Haemovore.
Sue: Oh dear. I just saw some flesh under that mask. That’s a shame. They should have gone for a proper zombie look instead of lumpy rubber. It would have been even scarier.
The Russians open fire on the creatures.
Sue: Shoot them in the head! How many more times?
The Doctor keeps the Haemovores at bay with a little faith.
Me: Did you notice what he was saying under his breath?
Of course she didn’t. So I rewind the scene.
Sue: No, sorry, I still haven’t got a clue.
Me: He’s reciting the names of his companions.
Sue: How the hell was I supposed to notice that? That’s ridiculous.
Ace and Sorin are attracted to each other.
Sue: See! Letter to Brezhnev. It’s a bit out of the blue, but I don’t blame her. Is this Ace’s last story? It is, isn’t it? You can tell.
The Doctor tells Sorin that faith in anything work against the Haemovores.
Sue: Would playing George Michael at them work?
Millington places Sorin under arrest.
Sue: Is it just me or does this bloke always sound pissed to you? Is he supposed to be drunk?
A battle breaks out and – shock horror! – Sue notices the music.
Sue: The stings in the action sequences are a bit Keffy. The music for the emotional scenes is really good, though.
Speaking of which…
Kathleen: (reading a letter) The ship on which your husband, Frank William Dudman, was serving, was struck by enemy torpedoes. Your husband was trapped in the fire and has been listed as missing, presumed dead.
Me: Dudman’s a dead man.
Sue: I still think that’s Ace’s grandmother.
Ace confronts the Doctor for being a sneaky bastard.
Ace: You always know. You just can’t be bothered to tell anyone!
Sue: Bloody hell, this is a bit out of the blue.
The Doctor tells Ace what they are up against evil before the dawn of time. Fenric isn’t even its real name.
The Doctor: That’s just Millington’s name for it. Evil has no name.
Sue: Could it be the Great Intelligence?
Me: What did you just say?
Sue: You know. From the new series. Isn’t it the same thing?
Me: I’ve never considered that before. You could be onto something.
Ace offers to seduce a soldier while the Doctor sneaks into the barracks.
Sue: First she’s the Doctor’s own personal terrorist, and now he’s pimping her out. Lovely.
She’s just kidding.
Ace: You have to move faster than that if you want to keep up with me. Faster than light.
Soldier: Faster than the second-hand on a watch?
Sue throws a cushion at me.
Wainwright confronts Phyllis and Jean, but his faith isn’t strong enough to hold them back.
Sue: Not. For. Kids. I’m looking forward to seeing Nicholas Parsons playing a zombie in the next episode, though.
In the Decrypt room, the chains of Fenric have shattered. Ace points at Commander Millington.
Ace: We’re too late. It’s him!
Sue: I knew it! He’s a bloody weirdo!
But they are both wrong. Fenric has inhabited another body.
Judson: We play the contest again…
Judson and Me: …Time Lord.
Me: Go on, then. Say it.
Sue: Is it the Great Intelligence?
Part Four (ish)
Between episodes, Sue wants to know more about the Special Edition. Specifically, she wants to know if it makes more sense than the original (she’s starting to struggle with the plot). And it was at this point that I decided to say “To hell with it!” and I stuck the Special Edition in the PS3 and I cued it up to the place where the recap would have been. Yes, I broke the experiment. Again. And by doing this, we have failed to satisfy anybody who voted in our poll. Result!
The Doctor, Ace and Sorin are sent to face a firing squad, but Russian troops come to their rescue.
Sue: I find it interesting that the Doctor isn’t siding with the British. I like that. And we didn’t like the Russians very much in the 1980s, did we?
Me: No, only Sting.
Sue: So it was probably quite brave back then.
Judson/Fenric confers with Jean and Phyllis.
Judson: Where is the Ancient One?
Sue: Who’s the Ancient One when he’s at home? Have I missed something?
Two marines shoot at Phyllis and Jean but they just keep on coming.
Sue: Aim for the head! Kids would have been terrified of this. This is proper scary Doctor Who.
The base is by battered by a freak storm.
Sue: I like the rain. It adds atmosphere.
Thank God we’re watching the regraded version. The original looks ridiculous.
Sue: What did you say?
Me: Sorry, did I say that out loud?
She even likes the fight scenes.
Sue: This is much better than those knights pissing about the other week. The direction is much better. It’s quite exciting.
Judson: Don’t interrupt me when I’m eulogising.
Sue: Ha! That’s brilliant.
Judson isn’t very impressed with Commander Millington.
Judson: I can see you’ve never been handicapped by great intelligence.
Sue: See! Great Intelligence. How can you not know it’s the Great Intelligence. He just said it.
Me: To be fair, I’m not sure if that line is in the broadcast version.
Sue: I don’t care. He just said it. That’s Richard E. Grant.
The Ancient One meets with Judson.
Sue: It looks okay, I suppose. His mouth is a bit wonky. He looks like he’s had a stroke.
The Doctor and Ace head to Millington’s office to retrieve the last surviving chess set, but it’s been rigged to explode.
Sue: Wow. Best explosion on Doctor Who ever. McCoy nearly took out the camera with his umbrella.
Ace and Sorin only have eyes for each other.
Sue: Get a room! She is so leaving at the end of this. It’s so obvious. She could do a lot worse, though.
Sorin is confronted by Haemovores.
Jean: You don’t have the emblem this time.
Sue: USE THE ONE ON YOUR HAT, YOU IDIOT! Oh, he didn’t need it after all.
The Doctor sets up the chess set.
Sue: That table would look great if you sanded it down and used some Briwax on it. Trust me, it would look magnificent.
Ace confides in Kathleen.
Ace: I don’t like dark buildings. There was one in Perivale, an old, empty house full of noises. Evil. Things I didn’t understand.
Sue: Is she still upset about the other week?
Me: I think the plan was to show this one before Ghost Light. This would have led in to it, I think.
Sue: This makes it look like she’s still ****ed up over it and the Doctor has messed up her head.
As Kathleen escapes with her baby, Sue keeps repeating the following mantra under her breath:
Sue: She’s your mum, she’s your mum, she’s your mum.
Sue notices that Judson/Fenric/The Great Intelligence is blinking a lot.
Sue: He’s having a terrible time with those contact lenses, the poor sod.
Phyllis and Jean are no longer required and the Ancient One turns them to dust.
Sue: Not. For. Kids. Excellent effect, though. Even though I don’t have a clue how he did that.
The British and Russians decide to work together.
Sue: I think those two will make a lovely couple. Seriously, this is Letter to Brezhnev meets Night of the Living Dead.
The Doctor tells the Ancient One some home truths.
Sue: Honestly, that is one hell of a wonky mouth.
When Ace works out what the winning chess move is, she rushes off to tell someone.
Sue: She’s not going to tell the bad guy, is she? Because that would be completely stupid.
But Fenric/The Great Intelligence controls more than one pawn in this game.
Sue: OH NO! HE’S TURNED THE FIT ONE!
Sue is genuinely upset by this.
Sue: It looks like the honeymoon is definitely off. Oh no.
It turns out that Kathleen’s baby is – wait for it – Ace’s mum after all. Who saw that coming?
Sue: It’s very timey-wimey, this. It’s so much like the new series, I keep expecting David Tennant to walk in.
My notes from this point:
She doesn’t really understand what the hell just happened, but she didn’t half enjoy it.
Ace is upset. I’m upset that Ace is upset. Mark Ayres almost makes me cry. Sue doesn’t pipe up again until the Doctor tells Ace to go for a swim.
Sue: I don’t get that at all. She’ll catch her death. That’s borderline irresponsible, but given the things the Doctor has made her do recently, it’s the least of his crimes.
Sue: My only problem is it didn’t really make any sense. It felt disjointed and the plot was a bit of a mess, but – and it’s a very big but – I enjoyed it a lot. It was exciting. And it’s very similar to the new series. You’ve even got a companion who turns out to be a trap set by the Great Intelligence. The Moff’s series is basically a sequel to this story. They should have put a lot more references to chess in it, though. Anyway, I really liked that. It looks like we are going to end on a high after all.
Me: I bet the Special Edition would have scored a 10.
We watch the documentary that explains how this Special Edition came about.
Sue: So Mark Ayres does know how to use Pro Tools! Excellent.